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Unruly classes raise absences tablce

Teachers alone cannot stem the rising tide of indiscipline, says the GTC for Scotland. David Henderson reports

It is "not sustainable" to cut indiscipline in the classroom by continually emphasising teachers' skills, the General Teaching Council for Scotland says in a draft paper.

Much of the extensive current documentation talks about improving the performance and practice of teachers. But that will not do. Teachers alone cannot reform society, it says in an interim report submitted to the council on Wednesday.

Once again, a body dominated by teachers turns the focus away from the violent incidents which might lead to exclusion and towards the low-level disturbance against which teachers say they have few appropriate sanctions.

"Increasingly, problems appeared to be linked to pupils who were receiving some kind of medication," according to the working group, chaired by Professor Douglas Weir, of Strathclyde University.

Teachers should be encouraged to redefine what they find acceptable and unacceptable in terms of inclusion, His group believes the Scottish Executive has only started to act on the discipline task group recommendations by amending its advice on exclusions.

"Much still remains to be done," it states.

Executive evidence already points to rising violence against teachers, while the number of referrals to children's panels of boys aged 8-15 is also increasing. Boys from women-only families often had no contact with male teachers in primaries.

"All of these factors are contributing to increased frustration and lowered morale among teachers and disturbing levels of stress-related teacher absence from school.

"The absence levels are also disproportionately higher in some geographical areas where schools face increasingly anti-social behaviour in the school and in the wider community," it continues.

The group contends that Executive policies can conflict with each other, including the post-McCrone revised management structures which in some authorities undervalue guidance, learning support and behaviour support.

"For example, the introduction of full-time guidance teachers to enhance support to young people is hindered by the job-sizing toolkit, which will place them on a maximum of point 3 in the relevant salary scale," it adds.

It further accuses ministers of losing momentum over establishing integrated community schools and the impact they could have on anti-social behaviour. Similarly, some rebuilt classrooms under the public private partnership are "being reduced in size to the point where passive learning becomes too common, thus increasing the incidence of low-level disruption".

The council urges ministers to step up the emphasis on the role of parents in curtailing indiscipline and calls for better co-ordination among local authority services. Behaviour management courses should find a stronger place in initial teacher education, while teachers should lobby for an entitlement to training on strategies to deal with indiscipline.

The working group also wants improved primarysecondary transition and the development of "transition teachers"; an examination of the school day, week and year to tailor it to the modern learner; and a changed curriculum to make it more attractive to teachers and students.

* Training for teachers in special schools has helped to cut the number of violent incidents in Fife, the authority says. For the first time in six years the number of recorded incidents is down - from 650 to 588 - mainly because of fewer cases in special schools.

Fife says it has been involved in training in calming down aggressive behaviour and in personal safety. The focus is on prevention of violent behaviour and ways to deal with it when it occurs, says the authority.

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